All hail king cabs

Cabernet Sauvignon is the red wine that evokes excitement in the palates of most red-blooded wine lovers. It’s the wine of royalty.

A red wine grape that never got proper credit in its birthplace in Bordeaux France, it was always blended with Merlot, Cab Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot, and never awarded the throne as king of the red grapes until it reached the U.S. and Napa Valley, Calif.

As a single grape varietal, it is the highest producing wine in California. Through the years, it has gained in stature so that some “cult” wineries in Napa have boldly charged upwards of $700 a bottle for their latest release (Screaming Eagle, 2009.)

Many more small productions, highly rated Napa Valley cabs are in the $300 to $400 ranges.

Lately I have been fortunate to taste some delicious Cabernets in some fine restaurant special occasion dinners. Franciscan Estate of Oakville, under the winemaking direction of Janet Myers, has just released its 2010 with lots of plum black cherry and hints of vanilla and pepper ($28).

She learned her craft, connecting with her roots in Italy, by working in the Antinori vineyards. Then came Australia and Napa Valley by way of Beaulieu, Stag’s Leap and Louis Martini, before being named winemaker at Franciscan in 2005, and then later added Mount Veeder to her responsibilities. She has good news about the 2013 harvest and calls it “fantastic, with berry flavor taking over.”

Lewis Cellars out of Napa is the small production Cabernet producer with big, muscular wines like the new release 2011 Mason’s Cabernet ($60). Lots of oak spices, and bursting with ripe cherry-berry fruit, laced with chocolate and licorice, Lewis likes to age its cabs in French oak for 19 months, then bottle unfiltered.

They source the best fruit from all over the Napa Valley.

Managing the tannins is important in great tasting cabs, in the wineries and in wine storage at home. Big ripe cabs need to mature. No cab before its time, for the closest California has come to true royalty.

Meritage Wine Market in Encinitas is hosting its annual Napa Valley young vintners Grand Tasting Oct. 12 from 5 to 8 p.m. with a chance to try many newer style Cabs. Live music and food as well $60. RSVP and details at (760) 479-2500.

Roy Yamaguchi’s Pacific Rim Cuisine

I first met Roy Yamaguchi in Palm Desert at their El Paseo Wine and Food Festival a couple of years ago. He was doing a cooking demo on a Sashimi dish that had the audience hanging on every word. For Pacific Rim cuisine, there is no better and his string of restaurants proves that each night. Yamaguchi will be a celebrity chef at the San Diego Bay Wine and Food Festival Nov. 18 through Nov. 24. We are fortunate to have one of his top locations in La Jolla — Roy Yamaguchi’s Pacific Rim Cuisine, newly updated and renamed from Roy’s. He has mentored Chef/partner Charles Andres to present his fish and beef creations with select house wines, paired with perfection to highlights of the menu.

Roy’s Hawaiian background tilts the menu to exotic fish such as Ono, Island Ahi and Mahi Mahi. In the appetizer menu, exclusives are the Lobster Potstickers with spicy Togarashi Miso butter sauce.

My personal recommendation would be the Wagyu Beef for two, seared tableside over a Japanese hot stone. A special soy sauce brings out the flavor.

Wagyu is the steak of choice and it shows up in the entrées in a smoked style, with grilled scallions and mushroom Soy Jus.

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Wine Bytes

Il Fornaio Restaurants in Del Mar and Coronado are now featuring the cuisine of Lombardia Italy. Free wedge of Lombardia Grana Padano cheese with each meal, plus the latest wine and beer from the district.

Wilson Creek Winery in Temecula has its annual Harvest Celebration, Oct. 13 from 5 to 9 p.m. Stomp grapes, take a hayride, wine and cheese, live music. $85 general admission, $65 for club members. (951) 699-9463.

Firefly Grill and Wine Bar in Encinitas presents a five-course dinner, each paired with Tolosa Wines, Oct. 17. $55 starting at 6:30 p.m. RSVP at (760) 635-1066.

The Grand Resort Del Mar offers a vibrant Rioja Spanish wine tasting with Tapas Oct. 17 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., with food from Amaya and cheese from Venissimo. $55. Reserve at (858) 314-1996.

Frank Mangio is a renowned San Diego wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. He is one of the leading wine commentators on the web. View and link up with his columns at Reach him at



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